I have recently decided to start a series of articles that will focus on the career-defining moments of individual wrestlers.
For every main-event star that has made their mark in the wrestling business, there are moments that, when you look back, define the directions that their career has taken.
I am talking about moments like the iconic "Austin 3:16" promo or Shawn Michaels kicking Marty Jannetty through the "Barber Shop" window, turning points in the respective careers of two icons.
The first article in the series will detail the career of the current WWE superstar whose story is perhaps more inspirational than any other. I am talking about the Miz, who was ridiculed and vehemently criticized by fans, journalists and wrestlers alike when he first made his WWE debut.
But he rose above all the adversity he faced and went from a reality television star to a WWE Champion in quite incredible fashion.
This article will take you through the 10 moments that define his career up to this point in chronological order. Enjoy this in-depth look at the career of the "most must-see WWE Champion in history!"
After months of build-up and vignettes, the Miz finally made his WWE debut in 2006 as the "SmackDown Host."
After it became clear that this gimmick was going nowhere, WWE Creative decided to hand his in-ring debut, much to the chagrin of color commentator John Bradshaw Layfield. JBL could not understand why this reality TV star was being given air time, and his clear dislike for Mike Mizanin was very apparent on commentary.
The Miz was far from the finished article at this point; his promos lacked polish and his in-ring ability left a lot to be desired. But it was clear, even at this early stage in his development, that he possessed charisma and a rare ability to connect with the crowd.
This victory over the well-respected Tatanka would signify the opening of a new chapter in his career and it was the beginning of a decent winning streak that would only be ended by the Boogeyman.
The Miz's character was going nowhere as the self-proclaimed "Chick Magnet" and various angles with the likes of Kelly Kelly and Kristal made it easy to understand why fans hated him. His persona had become annoying to the point where he had "change the channel" heat, and few found him entertaining.
Fans were up in arms and calling for his release, but the godsend that may have saved his career was Creative's decision to pair him with John Morrison on ECW.
Miz and Morrison won the tag team titles from MVP and Matt Hardy on SmackDown and immediately retained those titles after Montel Vontavious Porter cashed in the rematch clause. This would represent the Miz's first taste of gold in the WWE, and it started a weekly segment with his partner that became known as the "Dirt Sheet."
It was basically an excuse for Morrison and the Miz to criticize and ridicule any personality in the WWE without fear of the consequences and it provided many entertaining moments.
Despite the Miz's success, people were still talking about him as a tool to elevate Morrison to bigger and better things, and he was still never expected to amount to anything as a singles wrestler.
This moment represented a new beginning for the Miz in more ways than one.
For the first time in his career, he was drafted to the flagship show, and he was finally about to forge a successful singles career for himself. The handling of any tag team breakup is crucial in determining the futures of both athletes involved and this certainly made the Miz look the stronger of the two.
This began the process of a slow face turn for Morrison, while the Miz became more aggressive and self-centred as opposed to goofy and immature.
Historically, it is the heel of the tag team who fares better after the split, and this was certainly the case here—although many fans would predict the opposite.
For the majority of talented mid-card performers, all they need to take them to the next level is a high-profile feud with an established main event talent. It would be a stretch too far to say that the Miz's feud with John Cena in the summer of 2009 immediately elevated him into the main event; but it was the start of his biggest push yet.
He would begin by calling out Cena week after week and citing cowardice as the real reason that the "Champ" never accepted his challenges. The feud panned out in much the same way as Jericho's famous rivalry with Goldberg in WCW, where the fans started to beg for the musclebound hero to come out and shut the mouth of the whiney "wannabe."
This also represented a vast improvement for the Miz in terms of mic skills, as he more than held his own with Cena over the course of angle. The Miz called out Cena for being a corporate champion who pandered to the key demographic of women and children.
When Cena finally accepted the challenge, the Miz had become an over heel, and fans could not wait to see him get his long-waited comeuppance on pay-per-view at the Bash.
He may have lost the match, but this certainly showed the world that he was ready to hang with the big players.
This was the end of Miz's long crusade in becoming the United States Championship that had seen losing efforts at three consecutive pay-per-views.
He was granted a rematch with Kofi Kingston the night after Hell in a Cell 2009 and he finally seized his opportunity. This was his first singles championship with the WWE and it clearly meant a lot to him based on his reaction.
He would go on to become a very impressive U.S. Champion, working with the likes of Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston and his former tag team partner, John Morrison.
The Miz's career continued to go from strength to strength as United States Champion.
He was the only member of the Raw roster to emerge victorious from the Bragging Rights PPV, as he won an Interpromotional match with John Morrison. The Miz was quickly becoming one of the most hated heels on Raw, and his promo skills were developing each and every week.
It was only after MVP became the No.1 contender for the U.S. title that we saw just how exceptional the Miz could be on the microphone. In this famous worked shoot promo, he detailed the obstacles that he had been forced to overcome on his way to the top, talking about his exclusion from the locker room area and the bullying that he had been subjected to by JBL.
The emotion invested in this promo was evident, and it really made the wrestling world sit up and take notice of the often-criticized "reality TV star" from Cleveland.
The intensity in the delivery as well as the real-life issues covered were what made this speech so special and career-defining.
The Miz's debut of a new theme song in 2010—"I Came to Play" by Downstait—was the start of a new chapter in his career, as he moved away from the generic rock music that he had entered to before.
The song defines his arrogance and narcissism perfectly, and it feels like a main-event track as opposed to the previous guitar riff.
It was around this time that he formed a tag team with the Big Show and became the first superstar in history to hold both the United States title and the Unified Tag Team titles simultaneously.
"ShowMiz" was a good way of elevating the Miz still further in the eyes of the fans, as he cleanly pinned the legendary Shawn Michaels to win the tag titles. "ShowMiz" walked into WrestleMania 26 as the tag team champions, and after the Miz's first official appearance on the "grandest stage of them all," they walked out with their title reign intact.
The eventual loss of the tag team titles and subsequent split from the Big Show only signified bigger and better things for the "Awesome One!"
The Money in the Bank ladder match has always been an effective way of elevating younger superstars to a main event pedestal. Edge and CM Punk can both trace their first world title victories back to the Money in the Bank briefcase, and never once has the contract been cashed in unsuccessfully.
The Miz would overcome the odds yet again to win the Raw briefcase at the inaugural Money in the Bank pay-per-view in a match that also contained Chris Jericho, Edge and Randy Orton.
The emotion on his face after climbing the ladder and retrieving the briefcase made it obvious that the culmination of a lifelong dream was nearly complete.
Having said that Money in the Bank winners boasted a 100 percent cash-in record, WWE critics were certain that the Miz would become the first man in history to cash in and lose. When he eventually decided to prey on a weakened Randy Orton who had just been through a tough match with Wade Barrett, there was still the possibility that Orton would strike with an RKO out of nowhere.
But when it seemed that Orton was finally coming back into the matchup, Miz struck from out of nowhere with the Skull-Crushing Finale to win his first WWE title. All of the pent-up emotions and frustrations came rushing out at once as the Miz finally fulfilled his childhood dream.
This would begin a memorable championship reign where the Miz would begin calling himself the "most must-see WWE Champion of all time."
He twice scraped through in title defenses against Randy Orton and then began a feud with Jerry Lawler in which he really excelled as a heel champion. The Miz was also extremely impressive at keeping himself relevant in the build-up to his WrestleMania match with John Cena which was overshadowed by the Rock's unexpected return.
Shawn Michaels, Dave Batista, JBL, Edge, Triple H and the Big Show have all tried and failed to defeat John Cena for the WWE Championship at the "Showcase of the Immortals." Whether Cena is defending the title or challenging for the ultimate prize in sports entertainment, he always seems to come out on top, regardless of the calibre of his opponent.
So when the Miz pinned the face of the WWE in the main event of WrestleMania 27, albeit with an assist from the Rock, it was truly a special moment.
After an underwhelming pay-per-view, the Miz and Cena were given a limited amount of time to put on a main-event worthy show, but they still managed to have a compelling match full of drama. The Miz earned many people's respect after taking a nasty bump on the back of his head and continuing the match.
When the Rock ordered for the match to restart, it was seemingly inevitable what was going to happen and the Miz took advantage of a rivalry that had been years in the making.
Not many people can claim to have walked into their first WrestleMania main event and to have left with their head held high and their title reign intact, especially when they are up against a modern-day Hulk Hogan. But the Miz cemented his legacy as one of the finest WWE Champions of the PG era and a bona fide main-eventer for years to come.
I hope you enjoyed this article as I certainly enjoyed writing about one of my favorite WWE superstars. The Miz's story is truly inspirational, and if anyone deserves their spot in the main event then it is Mike Mizanin.
I hope that this theme will become a weekly series, so please post your suggestions in the comments section as to who you want to see documented next.
As always, thanks for reading!